Classroom-Based Assessments

English language assessments are important because they do the following:
  1. Screen and identify students who need English language instruction
  2. Establish appropriate placement for level of instruction
  3. Reclassify students to move to a different level or exit the English learner program
  4.  Monitor English language development
  5. Provide information on program evaluation
  6. Establish instructional and student accountability (O’Malley and Valdez Pierce, 1996)
This information is certainly useful for a district to maintain and may be required by state law. The results of these standardized tests provide an indirect measure of your students’ English language ability because it is removed from actual tasks a student does in the classroom.
Classroom teachers don’t usually find these indirect measures so useful for instructional purposes in the classroom. First, you may receive this information briefly reported by a phrase or a number such as “early advanced fluency” or “Level 2” depending, of course, on the test that’s used and its rating scale. This may not help you understand exactly what level of academic performance you should expect from your student. Second, there may be a lapse of time from the point that the test was administered to the time you receive the results. The results of the test are a snapshot in time reported to you after the student has already made some progress in your classroom. The results may not adequately capture your student’s current level of English language development.
What can help you a great deal as a teacher of English learners are direct measures that you can obtain yourself from your own classroom-based assessments. These help you answer two important questions: (1) What level of performance on academic tasks should I expect of my English learners? and (2) What support do my students need to help them learn and perform well on academic tasks?
Furthermore, informal and direct measures can help you answer another question: How is my student’s English language development progressing?
Diagnostic assessment, as the term indicates, is a diagnosis of areas of need. It helps you select the types of support your students will specifically need with listening, speaking, reading, and writing to help them achieve both academically and to improve their English language abilities. This support will also help them improve future performance. Teachers of English learners find direct measures the most helpful. These include classroom- based measures of student performance, such as writing samples, projects, student-made exhibits, and other activities that students engage in as a part of regular classroom activities. Assessing this kind of student performance gives teachers direct classroom-based feedback.  In the next postings we’re going to provide you with some classroom-based assessments that you can use to give yourself direct measures. You can use these for diagnostic purposes, for academic assessment, and for helping to track your students’ language development throughout the school year.

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